Wednesday, April 3, 2013

All Creatures Great and Small

Monday night is not normally a TV night at our house.  Mr. Forest Manor and I usually watch our regular shows on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and maybe some sort of sports on the weekend.  But this Monday evening, I decided I wanted to watch an episode of "All Creatures Great and Small."  We have six seasons on DVD, and we watched all of them several years ago, and haven't watched them since.  I got out the Season One DVD, and we watched the second and third episodes again.  We thoroughly enjoyed them, and that's when I decided it was time for me to write a post about this show.



"All Creatures Great and Small" is one of the most popular British television series ever made. When it was broadcast in the Seventies and Eighties, viewing figures regularly soared above 20 million.  The James Herriot series are some of my favorite books of all time.  My paperbacks have creased spines from where I've read them multiple times.  There are several reasons I enjoy the BBC series.  The scenery of Yorkshire is beautiful; the episodes are generally well-acted and produced; and they are, for the most part, faithful to the books.

When I was growing up, our family spent many evenings watching TV shows together.  We watched the Waltons, the Carol Burnett Show, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Andy Griffith, and Peter Falk in "Columbo."  And before all of those shows were around, we watched Walt Disney every Sunday evening.  That seems like a lifetime ago now, before cable brought us hundreds of channels to choose from.  They may have increased the quantity of shows on television, but not necessarily the quality.

Now, in addition to questionable humor and taste in almost everything on TV, we must be subjected to our weekly dose of political correctness and instruction on the social issues of the day, as it is assumed that we are not capable of deciding these things for ourselves.  Oh yes, it's no wonder that I enjoy a show that is full of quirky British humor,

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beautiful scenery,

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...and real people dealing with the day-to-day life of farming and raising families during the Great Depression, World War II, and the years after the war.

Unlike in "Downton Abbey", you won't often find spectacular houses and gorgeous costumes in this series; although, Mrs. Pumphrey, the very wealthy owner of the pampered Pekingese, Tricki Woo, does have a beautiful home and lovely dresses.  James' wife, Helen, usually wears pretty, feminine dresses and often charming hats, as well.  But the hardworking farmers and their wives often lead a rather rugged existence, and their clothing is suited to their daily life on a farm in the 1930's and 40's.

Since most of us love to read and write about all things house and home, I've included some pictures of Skeldale House, the house in the fictional town of Darrowby where James Herriot (whose real name was James Alfred "Alf" Wight) and his veterinarian partner, Siegfried Farnon, lived and operated their small animal clinic.  I was very taken with the descriptions of Skeldale House in the James Herriot books because it was obvious that the author loved this house and was impressed with its classic design and graceful, yet comfortable furnishings.

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The building on the left with the cheerful red door is Skeldale House.

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This is the back garden at Skeldale House, which is mentioned frequently in the books.


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The front entry of Skeldale House -- I love the case clock and the pictures hung from chains on the walls.

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This is the dispensary -- what a wonderful array of colorful, vintage bottles.

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The real house where these now-famous veterinarians lived and had their small animal practice has been turned into a museum called "The World of James Herriot."  It's located in the town of Thirsk, in Yorkshire.  Thirsk became the town of "Darrowby" in the books and BBC shows.  The above picture and the previous one are taken from the museum, which is furnished with many of the original tools of their trade.

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A picture of the original cast.  According to Wikipedia, "some indoor scenes (including all those of the interior of Skeldale House) were shot at the BBC's Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham."  Set designs are so realistic, I don't know why I'm often surprised (and disappointed) to discover that they are not an actual house but a studio set.  Did you know that Andy Taylor's house in the Andy Griffith Show was a studio set in Burbank, California?  I was shocked when I learned that as an adult.  Anyway, the above picture was from the television show, not the real house.

This is the room where the housekeeper, Mrs. Hall, directed James to wait for Siegfried when James arrived for his job interview.  Most of the memorable scenes inside Skeldale House took place in this cozy sitting room.

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This picture is a little blurry, but you can see they're enjoying tea, complete with lovely English china.  The tables were always set so prettily in these episodes, filled with lots of traditional English food.  These men worked up quite an appetite during long hours of traveling from farm to farm and doing strenuous work with large animals.

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Another view of the sitting room.  This is from the BBC set; you'll notice it is decorated a bit differently from the sitting room at the museum (below).  I love the furnishings and the arched alcove with bookshelves.

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These two pictures are from the museum in Thirsk, complete with a wax figure of James Herriot.  I love the wonderful French doors opening out onto the back garden.  Notice the children's toys in the sitting room.  James and Helen and their two children, Rosie and Jimmy, lived in Skeldale House for many years; and the veterinary practice was still being conducted in the house, as well.

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This room is also from the museum.  I love the cheerful yellow walls and the Welsh dresser filled with blue and white dishes.  Do you see the old-fashioned drying rack on the ceiling for laundry.  You can see the pulley and rope used to raise and lower the racks.  Makes us look kind of spoiled with our fancy washers and dryers, huh?

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A different view of the kitchen.

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Above, the interior of the King's Arms Hotel in Askrigg, Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, was used as the interior of the Drover's Arms pub in the TV series.  The interior was much more rustic looking in the show.

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The exterior of the Kings Arms Hotel.  The remaining pictures are just stills from the show and images of buildings and surrounding countryside in Yorkshire.


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The picturesque village of Askrigg (above) doubled as the fictional town of Darrowby.


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I hope you enjoyed reading about this classic television series.  I don't know if it still airs on PBS, but I'm sure you could probably rent it from Netflix, if you're interested in seeing it.  Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy day to read my post.  I hope you have a wonderful week!

Denise

17 comments:

  1. Loved this post! Yes, I have so enjoyed this series through the years. It still plays on our PBS station. I loved the actress who first played Helen and want to read the books she's written about her life in Italy. It can't be easy for a new actress to take over the part and I've just never warmed to the second Helen. It makes all the difference, I think. Wonderful stories so charmingly portrayed and so "real." Thank you for all the extra info!

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    1. The first Helen was my favorite too, Vee! I almost cried when I came to the season with the new Helen. I also think the actor who played James and the actress who played the first Helen had much more chemistry together; they really seemed like they were a couple.

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    2. Denise, they were... I have read a bit about why Carol Drinkwater left, but the most reasonable explanation I saw was that Carol Drinkwater left the show because she wanted to expand her acting horizons. (As an actress myself, I know exactly what she's talking about.) And she did just that: she is a wonderful author and documentary film maker, and she has a website, blog, and page on Facebook - she prolific and terrific! To top it all off, she has the most enchanting Olive Farm with her husband, the French documentary filmmaker Michel Noll.

      BTW, Linda Bellingham, the "second Helen," grows on you... She did have chemistry wtih Christopher Timothy - but I really had to look for it because the author (Alfred Wight) and his wife wanted everything to be "wholesome" and de-emphasized the husband-and-wife affections part, from what I read. I also read an article online from July 2013 that said Bellingham had cancelled a theater acting gig/tour because she is being treated for cancer. Let's all think good thoughts for her!

      And Robert Hardy/"Sigfried Farnon!" Did anyone else (beside me) not realize that the same actor was the Minister of Magic in the Harry Potter movies?! He turned 87 years old this year and he's still doing a marvelous job!

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  2. I've never seen the series, Denise, but after reading your post, I know I would enjoy it. I love Downton Abbey and miss having that to watch. I loved the pictures you shared of the countryside and inside the homes and buildings. XO

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    1. Thanks, Kitty! I hope you can watch the show sometime. If we ever return to England, I would love to visit the town where the real James Herriot lived and tour the museum. We would definitely have to go in the summer, though; those Yorkshire winters are much too cold!

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  3. OK, once again I left and lost a comment. It was a long one too (of course)

    I'll just summarize:
    1. I didn't even know about this series
    2. I would probably love it
    3. I loved the photos you shared, inside and out
    4. Amen to your comments about television today.

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    1. Thanks so much Debbie! I tried leaving someone a comment twice earlier this week, and the computer just ate my comments. They were long, too. :) So frustrating!!! I hope you get a chance to see this show sometime -- I think you would enjoy it. XO

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  4. I am so excited to share this with my husband who would love this series. I am astonished he hasn't had us watching this. This is right down his alley. Denise, I am so behind. My MIL is staying with us and we had just finished dinner. She will be staying with us three days. I have been out of town visiting my daughter, a friend of mine suddenly died this week and I feel as if life should stop but it doesn't. Monday, I have a master bath demolition scheduled, my best friend's mother is in the hospital very ill, and much more. I won't have much time this week to read blogs and comment. Should I put a little note on my blog or just try to catch up when I can? Have a good weekend my friend.

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  5. Hi Denise. I remember watching the show when it was first on years ago, but haven't thought of it since and am so glad you brought it to mind. We watched all the same shows growing up after we finally got our own TV. We lived out in the country and didn't have TV for awhile so went to 'town' to my grandmothers house to watch Ed Sullivan every Sunday night. We love BBC humor and have just finished the series, The Vicar of Dibley. It is no longer on TV but got it through Netflix. It is very funny and if you haven't seen it, I think you might enjoy it. I've just ordered Clattersford, but haven't watched it yet..Happy Weekend..Judy

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  6. That red door at Skeldale House is EXACTLY the color I'm looking for to paint our front door!!!!!!!!! I'm so excited! Now I have a photo/color sample to take in to the paint store!!!

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  7. I grew up watching this show on PBS and thoroughly enjoyed your post about it. I so loved watching it and can remember those freezing cold scenes of the vets stripped to the waist in a chilly barn helping to birth a cow. Living in the deep south I'd never experienced bone chilling cold before and those sweeping vistas, hand knitted sweaters, and blazing fires all brought their world to life. Thanks!

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  8. I haven't seen it, the pictures reminded me of an old show my mom watched years ago though, Upstairs Downstairs. :)

    I remember when TV didn't have a bazillion channels. It was better then. :)

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  9. Hi Denise~ I haven't watched the series but I loved reading the books years ago! I loved seeing the interior photos and the beautiful countryside! I have to confess we watch a lot of mindless reality TV and Food Network, on as background noise while my husband catches up on work emails and I'm loading photos and reading blogs. I used to love MTM, Carol Burnette, and I think I've watched every Andy Griffith episode at least 5 times :)

    I haven't found any answer in forums about commenting. I follow you through GFC and now Bloglovin but I added you to my blog roll on my sidebar, so maybe now a comment will come through? It's still a mystery to me. Have a great week!

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  10. Nice trip down memory lane. Thanks for all the pictures. I remember watching this on public TV and loved the books too. We should watch it again.

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  11. I've never seen this but I do love British TV shows. I need to check Netflix as our DVR is pretty quiet at the moment because no new episodes of anything seem to be airing.

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  12. Fun to watch these old series. you have certainly made an effort in your research and reproduction here. I recently watched the series of Anne of Green Gables and loved it as much as when I was young.

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  13. Always enjoyable watching these old series I think. I recently watched Anne of Green Gables again and loved it.

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THANK YOU FOR YOUR KIND COMMENTS. I ENJOY READING EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM.

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